John Delaney reveals FAI debt dilemma with big decisions on future of Irish football to be made
FAI CEO John Delaney has claimed that the association's board will decide early next year whether to press on with plans to be debt-free by 2020 or stay in the red and invest in the game.
The borrowings from the FAI's commitment to the Aviva Stadium have impacted the sport here over the past decade but Delaney insists the balance can be cleared in the next three years.
He was speaking in Kilkenny, where this year's AGM will take place in July, and Delaney says the 2016 accounts will show that bank debt stands at €34m.
That is a small reduction from 12 months ago - a figure of €34.75m was offered at that juncture - with an overdraft figure in the region of €5m added to that. Details of the overdraft position at the end of 2016 will become clearer when the final accounts are released.
Delaney says the FAI's board will have to contemplate their options and admits that Ireland's attempt to qualify for the World Cup could influence their choice.
"The decision the association will make, and I think it will probably be the first quarter of next year, is will we bring the debt down to zero or will we use the funds to further develop the game," said Delaney.
"Particularly after we know whether we qualify for the World Cup, and where we are in certain other sponsorships and naming rights (for the Aviva Stadium).
So it is still well within our compass. I think we have demonstrated from the past when it was €70m, we brought it down to €34m, and we could certainly bring it (to zero) if we wish to, or the view might be to put the funds directly into the game and retain some debt."
Delaney did not commit to raising League of Ireland prizemoney - a contentious topic - stating that the FAI will wait until all 20 clubs present a strategic plan before making any plans. He wants government support for the next step.
Delaney cited the Dublin City Council's commitment to Dalymount Park as an example - although he says the target for the completion of renovations at Irish football's spiritual home is now 2021.
"I want 2021 because we're 100 years in football then," said Delaney, "The Government has given us a budget and what is looked at the moment I presume is the cost of that and what form of community involvement could be used for Dalymount Park.
"That's one part of the next step for the league. We expect to make the case to government on the basis of 20 credible plans (16 clubs have submitted theirs to the hierarchy) and the overall plan for the league."
Delaney hinted that high interest charges in 2016 - the last year of an arrangement with US-based Corporate Capital Trust (CCT) before they switched their banking business to Bank of Ireland - was an obstacle to spending in areas such as prizemoney. It remains to be seen what impact it had on the return from making the last 16 of the Euros in France.
"You're back to prizemoney again," he said, when pressed on the spending on the league which has been a key factor of talks with club reps. "There are a range of discussions which are confidential at the moment going across a range of things.
The meetings we've had, in certain cases, would give you a real drive for the league because some of the clubs are thinking more about what they can do themselves. In the past, it used to be 'what are the FAI doing?' It has to be 'what's everybody doing?'"
Delaney said that the investigation into irregular betting patterns around Athlone Town games is still ongoing, and he also responded to criticism of the FAI's decision to arrange a friendly between Manchester United and Sampdoria at the Aviva Stadium for Wednesday August 2.
That is a Champions League qualifying date and Dundalk could be in action if they win their first tie in next season's competition.
Delaney suggested the FAI have made contact with UEFA, where he is now on the executive committee, to try and ensure Dundalk played on Tuesday if a clash occurred.
Meanwhile, Luis Suarez is set to miss Ireland's friendly with Uruguay at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday week.
The Barcelona star was the big draw in the visiting camp but he has suffered a thigh injury and will be absent from his club's Copa Del Rey final with Alaves tonight.
Elsewhere, Shay Given has been released on a free transfer by Stoke and doubts now hang over whether the 41-year-old will continue his playing career.
Corkman Stephen Ireland has been offered a new Potters deal after missing the whole of this season due to a broken leg.